Viodi View – 08/09/13

Ken Pyle interviewing Jaime Montes of SureWest at the Viamedia booth at the 2013 Indy Show.
ViodiTV @ The Independent Show – photo courtesy of Becky Jones

The moments of life blur together as the years speed by faster and faster. Travel tends to accelerate the blur, as the towns and conferences seem to melt into a collage of images and seem to be part of another life. The moments that standout are when those different paths intersect, like they did last week at The Independent Show in San Diego, when my kids literally got a close-up of my friends and colleagues from around the country. It was better than that, as my kids were active participants in bringing ViodiTV to the hotel channel of the conference.

Thanks boys for the great work and thanks ACA and NCTC for your support in making it happen and to AXS TV and Viamedia for the advertising on this extremely local channel.

Opportunities Amidst Uncertainty

An image of one of the banners at The Independent Show - 2013.
ViodiTV at The Independent Show

Slices of last week’s Indy Show with soundbites from several of the speakers are found in this video. Outdated rules, regulatory uncertainty and the burdens of regulations were on the minds of many of the speakers and attendees, as reflected by comments from Ross Lieberman of ACA, Shirley Bloomfield of NTCA and Matt Polka of ACA. At the same time, there was a sense of optimism around broadband.

Stay tuned, as Viodi will be releasing the complete video interviews of the aforementioned industry experts, as well as others who participated in the 2013 Independent Show.

Click here to view and to read more.

Be Careful What You Ask For

Ken Pyle interviews Mike Grebb of CableFAX at The Independent Show
Click to view video

Retransmission consent reform was a hot topic at this week’s Indy Show. In this interview, Mike Grebb, Executive Editor of CableFAX provides an overview of some of the discussions heard on this topic, including thoughts on the retransmission consent flare-up between CBS and Time-Warner, comments from Insight founder Michael Wilner on being careful what you wish for regarding legislative or regulatory relief and the potential for Aereo to disrupt retransmission rules.

Click here to view and to read more.

Advertising Partnership Drives New Revenue for Existing Networks

Ken Pyle interviews Becky Jones of Viamedia at The Independent Show.
Click to view video

Many years ago, a wise marketer suggested that the value from cross-promoting different parts of his triple play would, by itself, justify ad insertion in his channel line-up. His challenge was that there were higher priorities for his company’s staff and ad insertion was way down the list of priorities for his IPTV network. Fast-forward almost a decade later and his words echoed in my head as I spoke to Becky Jones, VP Marketing and Research for Viamedia, at The Independent Show.

Thanks Viamedia for advertising with ViodiTV on the hotel channel at The Independent Show.

Click here to view and to read more.

Arash Afrakhteh on How to Create a Successful Network Software Company by Alan Weissberger

Arash Afrakhteh
Click to read more

In 1993, Arash Afrakhteh immigrated to the U.S. from Iran to work at Microsoft. He initially felt like “a kid in a candy store,” as a result of the stimulating intellectual environment, bright people, and excellent software tools at the software giant. In 2001, Arash became an entrepreneur when he co-founded Cariden Technologies, Inc. without taking any money from VC’s or angel investors!

Click here to read his story.

AT&T Offers Faster U-Verse Internet in CA and NV by Alan Weissberger

A picture of conduit for fiber optic cable being laid in a city street.
Click to read more

AT&T has launched a very tangible piece of its Project Velocity IP (VIP) in Nevada and California, introducing a faster U-verse broadband tier that delivers theoretical download speeds of up to 45 M bits/sec and upstream speeds of 6 M bits/sec. The new broadband tier, called U-verse High Speed Internet Power, will cost $50 a month as a promotional price to consumers who bundle it with TV and voice services on a two-year deal, after which the tier will cost $76 a month, AT&T said.

Click here to read more.

The Korner – Back In, Safety First

An example of a backed in car. Nationally renowned safety experts recommend that this is the safest way to park one's car.
An example of a backed in car. Nationally renowned safety experts recommend that this is the safest way to park one’s car. Click to view the associated video.

“Attaboy,” is a quote from Chris Trembley that I will remember for a long time. Trembley and Dan Berg are safety experts from the Minnesota Telecom Association who train operator employees within Minnesota as well as other states, such as Iowa. In this video interview, they emphasize the importance of creating a culture of safety within an organization. They suggest that safety starts with and has to be a priority of the company leaders. Other good things will result, when safety is put first.

Dan Berg points out that safety doesn’t end at the workplace and that, “Slips, Trips and Falls are horrible on the job and off the job.” Of course, safety and driving go hand in hand. An important part of driving is parking and Trembley confirmed that backing in a parking spot is the safe way to park (better visibility when one leaves). Hopefully, Trembley’s comments will finally put to bed the decades long debate in the Pyle household as to the best way to park a car. Thanks Chris and Dan for your insight!

Click here to view the video.

Analysis and Implications of Google's Proposed Web TV Service


A picture of scissors literally cutting a coaxial cable.
Cutting the Cord

The WSJ and NY Times reported that Google wants to offer live TV channels as well as pre-recorded TV shows (On Demand) using the public Internet.  The two newspapers indicated that the service would share a closer resemblance to cable TV than to streaming services like Hulu or Netfix, allowing customers to select channels online in real time, just as they do on cable, satellite or telco TV. The move would be a potential boon to the company’s struggling Google TV service.   Intel, Apple, and SONY are reported to be working on similar services.


The problem for those and any other new broadband TV provider will be in securing reasonable, nonrestrictive licensing deals from media companies that own the video content.  Many analysts believe those companies (Time Warner, Disney (which owns ESPN and ABC), Fox, CBS, NBC/Comcast, Viacom, etc)  are more likely to help out legacy program distributors (cable, satellite, telco TV providers) rather than broadband Internet newcomers.  Another question is whether both popular and unpopular channels will be bundled into various packages offered to consumers.

Bloomberg’s Kirsten Salyer asks “Can Google’s Online TV Kill Cable?”  Perhaps, but not right away she says:  “Can Google and others compete against the Time Warner’s in terms of price and content? Not immediately, but news they are trying is a warning that TV providers are going to have to be more innovative about how they adapt to the Web.”

Will Google offer live video in It’s proposed Broadband TV Service?  That’s really the key to differentiating a Google Web TV service from the video on demand streaming services now offered by Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

As the WSJ article notes, Google has already financed original programming for YouTube and offers or plans to offer TV and Gigabit Internet service in cities with Google Fiberthe company’s  broadband, fiber optic Internet service .   

Unique Insight and Perspective:

Indeed, what this author finds most interesting is Google ability’s to offer live and recorded TV programming on Google Fiber, which is now sold in Kansas City, MO and Provo, Utah.  It will soon be available in Austin, TX, according to the Google Fiber website.

There’s another interesting angle which no one has yet identified till now: a further broadband Internet capacity crunch brought on by the web newbies streaming real-time and on -demand programming.   This will require new broadband Internet peering agreements between CDN providers and ISPs.    It became a critical issue when Netflix video streaming became popular a few years ago and that company contracted with Level 3 Communications for a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to deliver its streaming video.

In 2010, Level 3 Communications and Comcast (the largest broadband ISP in the U.S.) entered into a legal battle related to the costs of the former’s broadband data flowing into the cable company’s broadband Internet access network.  Level 3 complained that Comcast had begun charging a new fee to deliver Level 3 traffic (mostly Netflix streaming) to its own subscribers. Level 3 called the fees unreasonable. Comcast argued that Level 3 was trying to send heavy traffic across its network without bearing its fair share of the cost.

The dispute was settled yesterday with the details not disclosed. On July 16th, the two companies said  they had “resolved their prior interconnect dispute on mutually satisfactory terms.”    The agreement changes how Level 3 routes traffic across Comcast’s network, sharply cutting the fees the backbone provider must pay when traffic overwhelms certain connections, a person familiar with the matter told the WSJ.

One blogger at the Benton Foundation wrote that she “suspects the resolution of the Level 3 and Comcast dispute involved some sort of network re-engineering.”

The peering arrangement and any network re-engineering could help both companies (and serve as a model to others) to avoid the kind of standoffs and gridlock that will almost certainly occur as the volume of Internet video traffic soars.

What few pundits realize is that some form of CDN or equivalent will be needed to transport the high volumes of streaming video, in real time, to wireline broadband ISPs.  Hence, peering arrangements and billing agreements will need to be made between those two types of network operators.

Closing Comment:

We can expect a further explosion of broadband traffic resulting from new streaming video services from Google, Intel, Apple, and SONY joining Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu.  Are the network operators prepared for this?  This author doesn’t think so!

Viodi View – 06/07/13

After a seven-year absence, it is exciting to return to The Cable Show next week in Washington D.C. With speakers ranging from Jennifer Lopez to the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, this conference will provide a broad and in-depth view of both content and technology. The stories in this issue of the Viodi View provide a preview of what will be seen at next week’s show and how content and technology have become intertwined.

“TV Everywhere” Gaining Market Traction with Live Linear added to VoD by Alan Weissberger

Click to read more
Click to read more

“TV Everywhere (TVE)” services have begun to pick up momentum among programmers and pay-TV providers, according to some industry executives who have seen a surge of interest among subscribers, especially on major stories such as the recent Boston bombing and its aftermath shown on CNN. Click here to read more.

A Cooperative Using Its Roots to Help Out with IPTV

Ken Pyle interviews Corey McCarthy of NCTC at the 2013 ACA Summit.
Click to view video

Ubiquitous delivery of video via IP is what allows cable and telco operators to offer the multiscreen video services. In the above interview, Corey McCarthy of NCTC discusses their efforts to create a converged IPTV platform that could be used by any of its 400+ telco operator members as well as the hundreds of cable operators that comprise the NCTC membership. The crowdsourced process he describes for evaluating the technologies takes advantage of the power of a distributed membership, while providing the scale necessary to achieve significant cost savings for those very same members. Click here to view.

From Capture to Screen & Everything in Between

Ken Pyle interviews MobiTV executives at NAB 2013
Click to view video

“Delivering Television, particularly live television, to non-traditional screens is extraordinarily complex, said MobiTV’s CSO, Rick Herman. Herman discusses the challenges of delivering television to multiple screens in the above interview. Cedric Fernandes, MobiTV CTO, joins in and describes what they are doing as an open IPTV platform; one where content could flow over a managed or unmanaged (e.g., OTT) networks. Click here to view.

MVPD-Driven BroadbandTV

Ken Pyle interviews Paul Woidke of NAGRA at CONNECTIONS at CTIA.
Click to view video

A year can make a big difference in the world of technology rollouts; at least between 2012 and 2013. Paul Woidke of NAGRA/OpenTV points out how many of the developments around broadband TV are now being driven by the MVPDs, as compared to earlier when Over-The-Top providers were pushing the envelope. Woidke points out that the cable operators are integrating broadband TV as part of their overall product offering that they can sell to advertisers. Woidke points out that the business models will have to evolve to support the creation of content that people want to watch. Click here to view.

The Advent of Ultra High Definition TV

An example of a 4K television on sale in May 2013; they are real.
4K TV at Retail

A new generation of television is here. Designed to leave current HD TVs in the dust, 4K televisions showed up in force at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year and the associated production equipment was demonstrated at April’s National Association of Broadcasters’ Convention. As amazing as these televisions are, some question whether consumers will be able to afford them and how many will even be interested after only recently upgrading to HD. So what is 4K and is the product worthy of the hype? Click here to read more.

2013 TiECon- Part 3: Software Defined Infrastructure Presentations & Panels by Alan Weissberger

Software Defined Network is shown with OpenFlow control.
Image courtesy of IBM

In this third and final article on the information packed 2013 TiECon, we summarize key messages from the second half of the SDI (Software Defined Infrastructure) Track on May 17th, including the afternoon keynote and two panel sessions. The first article covered all the TiECon opening keynotes. The second article summarized the invited SDI presentations from the morning of May 17th. Click here to read more of this article, as well as the very informative interaction in the comments section below the article.

Some Tweets and Short Random Thoughts:

  • Looks like Broadband Service Providers have an ally with regards to patent troll concerns, as indicated by this quote from Bill Hughes, senior vice president for government affairs of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), when he said, “We welcome President Obama’s focus on this important issue. Increasingly, retailers are forced to defend themselves against infringement suits simply for using off-the-shelf products that incorporate patented technology. The prospect of costly litigation to resolve even the most dubious of claims enables patent trolls to generate settlements that neither reflect the intent of the law nor the actual value of their claims. Meaningful action must be taken to reign in this abusive practice.”
  • An excerpt from a recent Apple patent application, echos what we were trying to do at ZillionTV, “For example, watching ads could result in getting “tokens” that are redeemable for offsetting your mobile carrier costs, or even providing them completely for free.”  One former ZillionTV colleague indicated he would “be surprised if they get all these claims….I saw lots of these components working years ago.”
  • Meanwhile, TiVo reports that is, “has agreed to enter into certain patent licensing arrangements with Arris, Cisco, and Google. As part of the settlement, Google and Cisco will pay TiVo an upfront lump-sum payment of $490 million, bringing the total from awards and settlements related to the use of certain TiVo intellectual property to roughly $1.6 billion.”

The Korner – My Final Impression of the Last Cable Show I attended

A clever advertisement at the 2006 Cable Show.
An Ad That Made a Lasting Impression

It is amazing how sometimes the most trivial and most unimportant things can make an impression. Great advertising is that which makes the imprint that one remembers 40 years later. Clearly, those images from our childhood may be the most vivid; hence why there are limits regarding advertising to children (who out there still remembers cigarette commercial jingles).

The final image from the last cable show I attended left an impression on me. The advertisement was in an unusual place and I literally found it on my last stop of the last day as I was leaving the convention center. Although it was an image that will probably be forever etched in my mind, for some reason I felt compelled to film this unusual pitch and share it with the world. Since, then at least 1,000 other people have also seen what caught my attention.

It will be interesting to see what makes a lasting impression at this year’s Cable Show. Click here to read more and to view the video.

"TV Everywhere" Gaining Market Traction with Live Linear added to VoD

“TV Everywhere (TVE)” services have begun to pick up momentum among programmers and pay-TV providers, according to some industry executives who have seen a surge of interest among subscribers, especially on major stories such as the recent Boston bombing and its aftermath shown on CNN.

Up till now, TV Everywhere has been mostly a video-on-demand service, a way for subscribers to watch replays of their favorite shows on second screens.  But with CNN and ABC leading the way, live-streaming of linear channels is starting to gain market traction.

The Diffusion Group surveyed 1,000 online video viewers (which represent close to nine in ten adult broadband users) as to their perceptions regarding the delivery of live linear content via a TVE service. Instead of only having access to on-demand content (which comprises most of today’s TVE offerings), they would receive real-time TV transmissions over broadband so that they can access live TV on any net-connected device.  More than 80% of respondents rate anywhere/anytime live linear access to their pay-TV channels as valuable.  And nearly two-thirds (64%) ranked the real time TV application as highly valuable.

“We think that the time spent will be very high, particularly as people flow between devices,” CNN Digital’s Alex Wellen said. A DISH Network executive predicts that TV Everywhere will become particularly popular among out-of-home mobile device users.

“The piece that becomes more important for broadcasters is going to be whatever happens with mobile, the ability to get live broadcast signals on a mobile device,” says Barry Lucas, SVP-research, Gabelli & Co., who has been following the TVE action.

“I think we’re likely to see all of the networks make live TV Everywhere available,” adds Will Richmond, who writes about digital video on his VideoNuze blog.  “It’s a way of bringing back some of the live viewership and blunt some of the appeal Aereo is sucking out of the market.”

Aereo is the Barry Diller-backed IP service that is offering all consumers access to real time video signals of local network affiliates (over the air broadcasts) for a monthly fee. It has drawn legal challenges from the networks because of its refusal to pay rights fees to them.  Yet it is now expanding beyond its orginal New York city area.

“While we are still in the very early days, the feedback we’ve received has been very positive and we are working diligently towards increasing distribution of these services in more markets across the country,” says Ben Pyne, president, global distribution, Disney/ABC Television Group.

Mike Biard, EVP-distribution, Fox Networks, said, “Access to local news programming on whatever device is in hand will be huge, but we think sports is the giant killer app for live streaming.”

And we certainly agree!  In fact, live sports is the reason many people subscribe to cable, satellite or telco TV.  And this author would ONLY consider buying a smart phone if it could receive live games (MLB, NHL, NBA, NFL) in real time (with good video quality) via 3G/4G or WiFi.



Multi-Screen Video Content and OTT Partnerships Enabled by New Video Network Architectures – Part 2 of 2


This is the second of a 2 part article on the 2013 OTTCON.  The first article looked at how Pay TV providers could offer OTT content on second screen devices and also how OTT and local providers (Pay TV or ISPs) could partner together to offer OTT content to subscribers.  This second article examines how video network infrastructures need to evolve to support both Pay TV and OTT content.

Video Network Architectures:

With live linear, Video on Demand (VoD) and now OTT content, delivery of multiple concurrent video services has become increasingly complex for pay TV service providers.  Nonetheless, providing access to quality video must remain a core competency of Service Providers (SP), else they’ll lose customers to competing offerings.   With the amount of content available today, SPs’ network infrastructures need to be able to handle network capacity issues in order to seamlessly deliver video content from the cloud to TVs, PCs and mobile devices.  That could involve costly network investments.

Service providers not only need to expand the accessibility of quality content to new screens, but they need to do this while meeting consumers’ expectations of a seamless content viewing experience when switching from one type of video to the other.  Quality of Service (QoS) will have a very strong impact on viewer engagement.

Content protection is another top concern for SPs.  It preserves content revenues among their subscriber base. Ensuring that only authorized subscribers access certain content can be difficult, especially with the expansion of viewing platforms. It is critical that video SPs  address content security, entitlements and authorization.

As viewing continues to increase on new screens and platforms, multi-screen services will continue to be a priority. The various screens will require different video formats that need to be well-managed and secure to provide a seamless ‘video anywhere’ experience.

All of the above factors will require new video architectures with enhanced hardware and software platforms needed to deliver OTT content.  A high level view of an OTT architecture (courtesy of Discretix) is shown below.  The figure does not include 3G/4G wireless access to OTT content because almost all mobile devices will access OTT content via an in-home WiFi network which connects to a Residential Gateway.

A depiction of the complicated architecture of multiscreen video.
Image Courtesy of Discretix

A more comprehensive video network architecture was described by Microsoft and Alcatel-Lucent in a 2013 OTTCON session titled, “Strategies of Unlocking Additional Values from OTT.”  That session was directed at existing Pay TV SPs that wanted to deliver OTT content along with their existing linear and video on demand (VoD) programming.

OTT value creation was said to have three underlieing pillars:

  • Integrated TV platform across experiences and devices
  • Build OTT experiences tied to core TV proposition
  • Web analytics and Internet speed applied to TV

The figure below depicts how a SP video network could adapt to support OTT content delivery.  Among the key network functions are:

  • Redistribute STB functions to CE/clients and the home network
  • A highly distributed Content Delivery Network (CDN)* for uni-cast scaling and multi-cast video (which has been demonstrated by Ericsson)
  • Session based personalization to create new value for consumers, content owners and advertisers
  • Agile back office architecture to launch and evolve services cost-effectively

*A CDN is a large distributed system of servers deployed in multiple data centers across the Internet.  It provides lower latency content services to end-users with higher availability and performance than the “best effort” Internet

Image depicting what needs to be done to adapt to HAS and Internet control.
Image courtesy of Alcatel Lucent & Microsoft


The Unified Video Network illustration below shows unified content distribution, distributed caching (of video content) and re-purposed video servers to permit SPs to reuse existing assets.

Image depicting a unified video delivery network.
Image courtesy of Alcatel Lucent and Microsoft

Personalization in the core SP network is shown in the figure below.

An image depicting what needs to be done in the core network to enable personalization.
Image courtesy of Alcatel Lucent and Microsoft

Microsoft’s Media Room* was said to be the market leading IPTV software platform with 50 deployments in 23 countries, including AT&T (U.S), Deutsche Telekom (Germany), and Sonus (Canada).  Alcatel -Lucent claims to be number one in video network and systems integration with 30 network operators using their equipment, according to the company.

Microsoft and Alcatel-Lucent platforms are used by AT&T U-Verse which announced second screen video content delivery last July, but has yet to make it available (as noted in the comments directly below the Part I article.

*Editor’s Note: It will be interesting to see what happens with Alcatel – Lucent’s ability to resell/integrate Mediaroom if the rumors prove true that Alcatel Lucent rival Ericsson will acquire the Mediaroom platform from Microsoft.


While not participating in OTTCON, Chinese telecom equipment vendors ZTE and Huawei also have a well-established role in the IPTV market, based on strong and growing IPTV platforms within China (e.g. China Telecom).

“There is a strong split in the IPTV middleware market between system integrators providing an entire solution and specialists in applications and customer experience,” according to Sam Rosen, ABI Research practice director for TV & video. “With the exception of Cisco, who recently purchased NDS, the system integrator’s role in customer experience will likely decline over the next few years; instead, this role will be left to client-centric middleware companies with better user experience,” added Rosen. The analyst stated that Viaccess-Orca (a subsidiary of France Telecom), Netgem and others, each have their own unique philosophy on how to create an IPTV system. ABI Research forecasts that IPTV households will grow from 80 million in 2012 to 117 million in 2017, with growth driven by Asia-Pacific.

Multi-Screen Video Content and OTT Partnerships Enabled by New Video Network Architectures – Part 1 of 2


This article covers two types of sessions from the content rich OTTCON 2013, held March 19-20, 2013 in Santa Clara, CA:

  1. Second Screen Video from mainstream pay TV service providers OR via a partnership between an OTT network provider and local service provider (telco or cableco).
  2. Video Network Architectures that facilitate OTT video for second screens, smart TVs (with Internet connections), game players, OTT boxes that connect to TVs, etc.

The first article published on the excellent OTTCON 2013 addressed emerging technologies for next generation video.(

Second Screen Video Content delivered by pay TV Service Providers :

Until now, second screen apps for mobile devices have been used primarily for searching, browsing and selecting content for the first screen (TV).   Examples include looking up information about a particular TV program, a movie review, actor bios, related programs, use as a remote control device, etc. There has not been too much OTT content being watched on those second screens, even though most pay TV customers have free access to “TV everywhere” from their pay TV service provider. Some may also have access to Hulu, Netflix, etc but don’t watch those much on second screens either (they use either game players or dedicated boxes like the one from Roku).  But in the future, there are other possible uses of the second screen such as social TV and watching pay TV/OTT video content from a service provider.

“Second-screen devices such as tablets, smartphones and ultrabooks are likely to be the principal force behind social TV experiences as companion apps are increasingly written for that experience,” said Michael Gartenberg, research director at Gartner Group. “A combination of content integration, social interaction and loyalty programs are the key activities that will make up the social TV experience.”

Long-term efforts to connect traditional TV broadcasts to the Internet have largely been limited to either content companion websites or connected devices such as smart TVs, video format converter and set-top boxes.  None of these approaches has led to the creation of interactivity or a social networking type of viewing experience for consumers. Or watching OTT video programming from their pay TV service provider.

One company thinks that will change in a big way! Speaking at 2013 OTTCON in Santa Clara, CA, Alan Hoff, VP of Strategic Marketing at SeaChange said that MSOs/Cablecos and Telcos would soon be delivering multi-screen TV services; and it will not be just the largest service providers (SPs), either. Concerned about disintermediation from OTT players, multi-screen TV was said to be “in the sights of every (pay TV) service provider.” It addresses the OTT provider threat (think “cord cutting” or “cord-trimming”), while capitalizing on the IP and web technologies that may providers are now using to deliver video content to TVs (e.g. AT&T’s U-Verse network uses IPTV technology while Comcast uses a managed IP network to control VoD delivery).

Second screen video will provide SPs with new opportunities in long time content owner relationships. Advertisers were said to favor second screen video because of its interactivity capability. The Diffusion Group forecasts 2017 tablet video viewing (as a second screen) to be significantly greater than all the on-line/OTT viewing in 2011, in terms of total hours watched (58B hours versus 38B hours, respectively).

Several examples of collaboration between OTT providers and video SPs were given:

  • Virgin Media (UK) is offering YouTube and BBC iPlayer.
  • A Time Warner Cable app is being distributed on by Roku for use on their box that plays OTT content on TVs via HDMI cable connection.
  • Com Hem (Sweden) is combining OTT content with its linear, on-demand, and catch-up TV services.

Service provider/OTT integration examples were said to span all network operator types –cable, telco, mobile, and satellite. Superior reliability, quality of user experience, simplicity of a seamless experience, and presentation across multiple devices were the benefits to be realized, according to Mr Hoff.

Distribution of OTT content by SPs could be via: the on-demand program listings, local distribution of specialized content, or a pay TV event (e.g. VOOmotion+ created a pay per view offering for Belgian Premiere League Football).

+  VOOmotion is an innovative multi-screen video service offered by cableco VOO in Belgium. Launched in December 2012 and now available to VOO’s triple-play customers across Belgium, VOOmotion is founded on SeaChange’s Adrenalin video platform and Nitro subscriber experience software.

Summing up, Mr. Hoff stated that:
  • Service providers‘ multi-screen expansion will bring in a huge audience.
  • Think of the multi-screen platform as a brand-builder for the SP as an OTT content distributor.
  • The lines of video consumption are blurring: OTT needs to be everywhere, and “SP multi-screen is prime real estate!”

“You have to follow the video consumers.  They’re on the move and they’re using more and more devices to watch video content,” said Hoff.  “Blended content services are the key to consumer satisfaction and video service providers are in hot pursuit with their high QoS multi-screen offerings.  Ultimately, they’ll coalesce everything consumers desire into one convenient source and a powerful brand association for OTT providers,” he added.

OTT Content delivered by Partnership between OTT Provider and Local Service Provider:

Evegent slide 8 depicting role of local service providers.
Image courtesy of Evergent

In a related 2013 OTTCON session titled, “What does it take to be a global OTT Service Provider,” Evergent CEO Vijay Sajja said, “the opportunity exists for an OTT service that combines local LiveTV channels and premium VOD content.”  One method of achieving that vision is for an OTT provider to partner with a local pay TV service provider.   There’s also the possibility of the OTT player partnering with an ISP to deliver higher quality OTT content to (mobile and wire-line) Internet subscribers. Both types of OTT-Local Provider partnering are illustrated in the adjacent figure on the right.

High level slide depicting elements necessary to create a successful multiscreen service.
Image courtesy of Evergent

Note: In addition to this excellent presentation, Evergent showcased their OTT Subscriber Billing and Royalty Tracking software systems at 2013 OTTCON.

Among the key challenges for such a B2B2C (Business-to-Business-to-Consumer) partnership are: support for multiple devices, languages and payment methods; easy sign-up/service ordering/provisioning; video player integration; customer account management; customer care; and fraud alerts.  Key high level elements of an OTT solution is shown in the adjacent figure on the right.

Evergent slide depicting how service provider could offer OTT content.
Image courtesy of Evergent

For an effective partnership, the biggest issue is back office and systems integration between the OTT provider and local Service Provider (pay TV or ISP).  Integration of call centers will also be important for rapid problem diagnosis and repair. The functionality required for all such integration is depicted in the adjacent figure on the left.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this article which will examine the architecture of video networks that make multi-screen video  (and other OTT environments) possible.

Follow the Money – Sports Programming, Golden Goose & Possible TV Revolution

Although not explicitly stated by any of the panelists, the political adage, “follow the money,” was an underlying theme to the Broadband Unlimited Webinar on Retransmission Consent held on Friday 11/30. There seemed to be agreement among the panelists – all of whom have been involved in the retransmission/must-carry regulatory game since it was enacted with the 1992 Cable Act – that money paid to the talent on the production side of the media business is at the root of what translates into higher pay-TV subscription bills for the consumer.

Sports Programming Calls the Shots

John Hane, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
John Hane, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP

There also seemed to be agreement that TV deals with the sports leagues, such as those by the NFL ($27B over 9 years), MLB ($12.8B over 8 years) and BCS ($5.6 B over 12 years for 4-team playoff and other select games), are the big drivers in terms of programming costs. The Wall Street Journal summarized the issue when it characterized the NFL as, “The league that runs TV.”

And the costs flow downhill and eventually hit the consumers’ wallet. An interesting nuance to this point, provided by John Hane who represents broadcast station clients as an attorney with the firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, is that even if retransmission fees were regulated or free, programmers would simply divert programming that is now on broadcast to their cable channels, driving up the prices of those channels and lowering the quality level on the over-the-air broadcast channels.

As was pointed out by Chris Cinnamon, a partner with Cinnamon-Mueller, a law firm that represents small cable operators in retransmission consent negotiations, cross-ownership between broadcast networks and cable was not as prevalent as it is today when the legislation was written. Another difference between today and 20 years ago, Cinnamon explained, is the rise of multiple MVPDs (multichannel video programming distributors) in a given market. Cinnamon argued that the monopoly position enjoyed by a local broadcaster gives it an advantage as it is able to pit MVPDs (satellite/cable/telco) against each other.

John Hane suggested segmenting broadcasters into two types; the Little B (those who are independents and broadcast groups) and the Big B (those owned by ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox).  With this framework in mind, the divide is often between the smaller and larger entities and not necessarily the local broadcast station and the local cable operator. One take-away from the discussion is that network affiliated broadcasters have essentially become toll collectors for the networks (which have to pay for the sports rights, etc.) and have little negotiation leeway.

Matt Polka, president and CEO of the American Cable Association, characterized the flow of money from broadcast station affiliate to the network as reverse compensation. Polka suggested that negotiations have changed with media consolidation. In the early years of retransmission consent agreements in the 1990s, the negotiations tended to be between the general managers of the local broadcast station and the local cable system. With media consolidation, the negotiation changed to one at the corporate level, often leaving the local management virtually powerless.

Hane pointed out that the cable operators set a precedent that has come back to haunt them, when  they agreed to carry cable network programming across multiple markets in exchange for carriage of local broadcast channels. Tying of cable networks to the carriage of local channels, as well as single representatives negotiating for multiple broadcast stations have been points of contention for ACA and its members (although these points were barely touched upon in this webinar).

Evolution or Revolution

Looking forward to 2013 and beyond, Matt Polka made the interesting observation that, “the best advocates for reform of the rules will be the networks themselves.” Cinnamon echoed this when he suggested that at some point high costs will kill the golden goose of program ratings. From a regulatory and legislative standpoint, the panelists indicated that 2013 would be more about discussion and review than radical changes to the existing way of doing business.

The panelists were skeptical of some revolutionary business model that might disrupt retransmission consent. One potentially disruptive business model, Aereo, was a topic of discussion. Aereo’s approach as sort of combination multichannel antenna extension, network PVR and over-the-top subscription service, offers a radically different way to deliver broadcast channels to consumers. Polka pointed to the rise of this type of offering as, “Underscoring consumers’ desire for control of what they watch and what they watch it on.”

There seemed to be agreement that chances are slim for Aereo to win its court case and, if it does, to win the hearts of the consumer. CED reported in its 12/3/12 issue that, after one year of service, Aereo has 3,500 subscribers with subscription prices starting at $8 per month.

Echoing the panelists comments, CED stated that, “The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals seemed poised to reverse a lower court judge who in July reluctantly gave a thumbs up to the company.” One of the judges in the case, John Gleeson, questioned whether Aereo’s business model is similar to ‘constructing a business to avoid taxes’, except in this case the business is built around avoiding copyright laws.

A question asked at the end of the panel, but that wasn’t fully explored, is whether some other entity with an established business, such as an ISP, might be able to create a variation of Aereo’s model that is commercially successful and within the bounds of copyright law (e.g. including off-air channels with every one of its broadband packages). This was just one of many questions that would have been interesting to explore had the panel had more time.

Questions Abound

It is difficult to talk about retransmission consent in a vacuum without quickly moving into the broader topic of programming rights in general. Here are some others questions that were left for another time (e.g. a full day conference) or for the discussion thread below this post.

  1. What sort of tying are you seeing between broadband over-the-top (i.e. multiscreen), and off-air rights? For instance, will broadcasters have their own direct to consumer multiscreen approach, while, at the same time, licensing content for operators multiscreen offerings?
  2. In the aforementioned multiscreen scenario, who controls advertising; particularly when the advertising might be location-based and not traditional inserts, but wrap-around banners and overlays?
  3. There have been lots of ideas for using the sub-channels – from additional programming for the broadcasters to mobile TV – how does this play into retransmission consent? Are these sub-channels being tied with the main channel in retransmission negotiations?
  4. Increasingly, we are seeing hybrid set-top boxes with the capability to do things like Off-Air with over the top or IPTV services. Do any of you see a scenario, where an operator could create a “low-cost” package of off-air and cable programming? Or, is these even practical due to the tying of cable programming and off-air programming?
  5. How will the upcoming spectrum auctions impact the future of retransmission consent? For instance, will we see the idea of spectrum sharing where several broadcasters or stations share a carrier? What impact does this have on sub-channels?

Time Warner Cable Media joins Comcast in adding AT&T U-Verse to Ad Platform; U-Verse Survey!

Time Warner Cable Media, the cable operator’s ad sales division,  is the second MSO in recent weeks to strike a deal with AT&T  to have the latter’s U-Verse TV service linked to the cableco’s fixed scheduling network.  Specifically, AT&T’s U-Verse TV service is being incorporated into Time Warner Cable’s “fixed scheduling network grids” in 15 markets via an agreement between TWC and AT&T AdWorks. The pact gives clients access to a broader range of network options for their ads.

Time Warner Cable Media’s agreement with AT&T AdWorks, becomes effective with the 2013 broadcast year.  The markets covered under the agreement with AT&T are: Dallas; Los Angeles; Cleveland; Austin, Texas; San Antonio, Texas; Milwaukee; Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City; Green Bay, Wis., Dayton, Ohio; Raleigh, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; Toledo, Ohio; and Louisville, Ky.

“This agreement with AT&T AdWorks simplifies the ad buying process for marketers to access consumers and grow their businesses. We relentlessly pursue new opportunities to help our clients grow their businesses,” Joan Hogan Gillman, Executive Vice President of Time Warner Cable and President of Time Warner Cable Media, said in a statement.

By “hard wiring” the network to run ads across a given designated market area with Time Warner Cable Media, AT&T “will expand our clients’ reach through one point of contact — making it a seamless process,” AT&T AdWorks president Mike Welch added.

This agreement, along with a similar pact AT&T signed with Comcast, will allow U-Verse to expand its ad reach via third-party MSO outsourcing.  AT&T had 4.34 million U-verse TV subscribers in the U.S. at the end of September, but that number is expected to increase by 1/3 in the next couple of years, according to AT&T.

“Currently, 32% of AT&Ts customers are covered by (triple play) U-Verse, which will increase by one-third to 8.5M additional customers and 43% coverage by the end of 2015.”

More details of AT&T’s U-Verse and IP DSLAM expansion plans is at:

But the Huffington Post is very skeptical about AT&T’s $40B build-out, including the U-Verse expansion:

“On Nov. 7, 2012, AT&T announced that it would be spending $14 billion to upgrade their wireless and wireline networks. And yet, in fact, AT&T is only spending about $5 billion extra over the next three years, about 8 percent above their 2010-2011 expenditures, if that much. Moreover, on the same day, AT&T filed a petition with the FCC to remove most remaining telecom regulations, using these upgrades as a carrot.  History shows that AT&T’s broadband deployments are rarely, if ever fulfilled once the company receives the regulatory benefits.”

According to Ad Week, there’s no overlap between the Comcast/U-Verse households and the TWC/U-Verse households, so with the two agreements (which cover some 36 markets, all told), U-Verse is effectively outsourcing much of its advertising to other MSOs, as it tries to build a larger client base across the country.

For more information, please see:

AW Comment:

I’ve been a U-Verse subscriber for 4 months now, and can’t express how satisfied I”ve been with both the TV and high speed (12Mb/sec) Internet service.  Both have been rock solid with very high quality video- both SD and HD- and no hiccups in Internet service (as was the case with ADSL Pro @2.5Mb/sec).  Yet customer support has been terrible- even for the most mundane and seemingly trivial issues.

AT&T has a new slogan when you log into their customer website:  “Rethink Possible.”  Yet AT&T has not done a RETHINK on any aspect of U-Verse customer service- from installation to billing to reporting website errors after logging in.  This fact has been confirmed by numerous U-Verse customers I’ve interviewed, in preparation for a feature article comparing U-Verse to Comcast triple play services.  We excluded both Verizon and TW Cable because they do not offer their triple play services in the SF Bay Area and so have no presence here.

I have yet to experience any technical problems with the services- no disruptions or outages.  But I fear that when I do (and it’s inevitable), it will take a very long time to diagnose the problem cause, recover and repair the service.

Please comment below or email me:  if you have any experience with U-Verse service outages and recovery.  I will include your results (anonymously if you like) in the survey I will be publishing soon.  Many thanks!


Wireless, U-Verse & Managed Services drive AT&T results in 3Q2012; Cellular Merger Challenge


AT&T, the largest US telecommunications carrier, reported net profit of $3.64bn in the third quarter or $0.63 per diluted share of common stock.  That compares with $3.62bn, or $0.61 per diluted share, in the year-earlier quarter. Strong wireless revenue gains coupled with continued growth in its U-verse video and strategic business services units helped AT&T report solid third-quarter 2012 earnings. Consolidated revenues of $31.5bn were flat year year-over-year, but up 2.6 per cent when adjusted for the advertising solutions sale.

“We had another impressive quarter with strong earnings growth, record cash flows and solid returns to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks,” said Randall Stephenson, AT&T chief executive.  “Our strong performance allows us to increase our free cash flow guidance to $18bn or higher this year, exceeding our previous outlook by $2bn.”

AT&T now expects capital expenditures for the year to come in at the low end of $19bn-$20bn while its rollout of a new “4G” wireless network based on LTE technology is ahead of schedule (but still way behind LTE leader Verizon Wireless).

Wireless Operations:

AT&T Mobility added a net 678,000 subscribers during the quarter, sold 6.1 million smartphones, including 4.7 million Apple iPhones, and reported record sales of Android and Windows smartphones. However AT&T ‘s wireless unit only added 151,000 monthly contract customers, less than half of what most analysts had expected.   Total wireless revenues, which include equipment sales, were up 6.6 per cent year on year to $16.6bn. Wireless service revenues increased 4.5 per cent to $14.9bn while wireless data revenues – driven by mobile internet use, access to applications, messaging and related services – increased 18.3 per cent to $6.6bn.

AT&T Mobility Highlights:

  • Wireless revenues up 6.6 percent; wireless service revenues up 4.5 percent
  • Strongest postpaid wireless subscriber ARPU (average monthly revenues per subscriber) growth in six quarters, up 2.4 percent to $65.20; phone-only ARPU up almost 3 percent
  • Strong smartphone sales of 6.1 million; postpaid smartphone customer base now 44.5 million, up 1.4 million from second quarter 2012
  • 4.7 million iPhones activated; record sales quarter for Android and Windows smartphones
  • Best-ever third-quarter postpaid churn
  • 678,000 net increase in total wireless subscribers, including gains in every customer category
  • Wireless operating income margin of 26.2 percent; EBITDA service margin of 40.8 percent with strong smartphone sales

The number of subscribers on usage-based cellular data plans continues to increase. Usage-based plans include tiered data plans and the recently introduced Mobile Share plans. About 64 percent, or 28.5 million of all smartphone subscribers are on usage-based data plans. This compares to 50 percent, or 18.0 million a year ago. About three-quarters of customers on tiered data plans have chosen the higher-priced plans. Early results from sales of Mobile Share plans have been positive. Nearly 2 million subscribers signed up for Mobile Share plans in the first five weeks they were available, with take rates on the higher-data plans stronger than expected. More than a third of Mobile Share subscribers are taking plans of 10 gigabits or higher. Overall, AT&T’s postpaid wireless subscribers on data plans increased by 11 percent over the past year.

Churn (customers switching to another cellular network provider) fell to 1.08 percent, compared to 1.15 percent in the year-ago third quarter and 0.97 percent in the second quarter of 2012. Total churn was 1.34 percent versus 1.28 percent in the third quarter of 2011 and 1.18 percent in the second quarter of 2012.

Wireline Operations:

AT&T’s third-quarter wireline results were led by strong U-verse TV and high speed Internet gains and accelerating wireline consumer revenue growth. Subscribers to the U-verse TV and high-speed internet service reached 7.4m in the third quarter. Broadband internet added a net 613,000 subscribers to reach 7.1m in total, helping offset losses from the digital subscriber line (DSL) service.

Total business revenues declined 2.6 per cent to $9.1bn. But declines in legacy products were largely offset by continued growth in strategic business services. Revenues from these services – the new-generation capabilities that lead AT&T’s most advanced business including Ethernet, virtual private networks (VPNs), hosting, IP conferencing and application services – grew 11.4 per cent year on year.

U-verse Subscribers Continue Strong Growth. Total AT&T U-verse subscribers (TV and high speed Internet) reached 7.4 million in the third quarter. AT&T U-verse TV added 198,000 subscribers to reach 4.3 million in service. AT&T U-verse High Speed Internet delivered a third-quarter net gain of 613,000 subscribers to reach a total of 7.1 million, helping offset losses from DSL. Overall, AT&T wireline broadband connections decreased 42,000. However, total broadband ARPU was up almost 10 percent year over year.

A majority of U-verse broadband subscribers have a plan delivering speeds up to 12 Mbps or higher — 54 percent, up from 43 percent in the year-ago quarter. About 90 percent of new U-verse TV customers took AT&T U-verse High Speed Internet in the third quarter. About three-fourths of AT&T U-verse TV subscribers have a triple- or quad-play option from AT&T. ARPU for U-verse triple-play customers was more than $170, up slightly year over year. U-verse TV penetration of eligible living units continues to grow and was at 18.0 percent at the end of the third quarter.

Closing Comment & Analysis:

In light of its failed takeover of T-Mobile, we wonder how AT&T will respond to all the mergers and acquisitions in the wireless telco space.  In particular, T-Mobile and MetroPCS along with Softbank and Sprint (especially now that Sprint owns over 50% of votes on Clearwire’s Board of Directors).

In 2011, federal regulators blocked AT&T’s bid for T-Mobile, resulting in a  loss of $6 billion for AT&T — the $4 billion it was required to pay T-Mobile over the failed acquisition, plus the estimated value of the broadband licenses it was required to grant T-Mobile.

T-Mobile (with MetroPCS) and Sprint (with the huge Softbank investment and control of Clearwire’s Board) are financially stronger and attempting to get much bigger. Softbank’s proposed 70% ownership of Sprint (over $21B) would be  the largest acquisition of a US company by a Japanese buyer.  Sprint CEO Dan Hesse recently commented on his company’s deal with Softbank:

“This is pro-competition and pro-consumer because it creates a stronger number three to compete with AT&T Wireless and Verizon.  Over the longer term I think we will see consolidation in the US industry and what this does is give Sprint the balance sheet and financial flexibility to play a larger role in consolidation in the future.”

AT&T issued a statement that noted Sprint’s control over Clearwire would convey to SoftBank “control of significantly more U.S. wireless spectrum than any other company.” AT&T said it expected “that fact and others” to be considered in the federal review of the SoftBank bid for Sprint.  However, it looks likely to this author that the regulators and U.S. Justice Dept will approve the transaction.

The cellular deal frenzy would reach a fever pitch if (the soon to be financially stronger) Sprint makes a bid for T-Mobile, as was reported several weeks ago.  Such a merger would give the combined telco approximately as many wireless customers (monthly and pre-paid subscribers) as either Verizon or AT&T.  It would also mean that just three carriers (AT&T, VZW and Sprint/ T-Mobile/ MetroPCS) would control almost the entire market.  That would be very bad for consumers who would then have less choice of provider and would likely pay more with diminished competition.

Please share your opinions on this story by commenting in the box below this article or contacting the author privately:


Viodi View – 07/27/12

Is there a rainbow peeking out of the clouds that points to a brighter day or do today’s clouds lead to a fog bank of chaos? Although there is a great deal of uncertainty in the telecom space, which is manifesting itself through cautious capital expenditures, two things are clear; improving efficiency of operations and finding new diversified revenue streams are critical for operators to survive and thrive.

Give Us Visibility 

With over 650 telecommunications’ operators behind last week’s letter that was sent to the FCC and their elected representatives, the rural telecom industry is as united as it ever has been. In a nutshell, a central point of their argument reflects what economists call, The Permanent Income Theory of Consumption. When the future is cloudy and income streams less clear, investors will tend to make fewer investments that require a long-term horizon. Click to read the rest.

Top US Telcos Reject Broadband Connect America Funding by Alan Weissberger

Ten of the nation’s largest carriers were invited to participate in the Connect America Funding program, offered by the Federal Communications Commission.  The fund would pay carriers $775 per broadband line deployed to an unserved home within its territory up to a specific dollar level (which varies from one carrier to another). Click to read Alan’s analysis.

Multiscreen Authentication for the Small Operator

Obtaining rights to stream programming to multiple screens is one of the major issues that cable and IPTV operators face these days, as shown by the recent dust-up between DirecTV and Viacom. In this interview, filmed at the 2012 ACA Summit, NCTC president, Rich Fickle explains how his purchasing cooperative is working to include multiscreen video as part of their deals with content suppliers. Click here to view this video interview where he discusses NCTC’s efforts to help with the multiscreen authentication challenge faced by smaller operators.

The Piracy Continuum

Stuart Rosove of Irdeto explains the nuance associated with identifying content theft. In this interview, he explains the framework for how Irdeto looks at the content security continuum. Ensuring easy access to the legitimate consumer on whatever device she wants is one of the problems Irdeto is trying to solve. Rosove points out a number of use-cases that the industry is working on (e.g. who owns the digital content in the case of a divorce). Click here to view.

From Online to the TV and Back

With all the talk surrounding the appointment of Marissa Mayer as CEO and the challenges she faces in pleasing the stock market, it is sometimes easy to overlook that Yahoo! is a profitable business with a significant position in many areas. Yahoo! is also is a leader in original programming according to Comscore data, “With 21 out of the top 25 most-watched online series…..captures more than 57 million unique viewers a month who come to Yahoo! to watch video.”An example of original Yahoo! programming is the just released series, Electric City, created by and starring Tom Hanks.

In this interview, Russ Shafer, Senior Director of Global Product Marketing for Yahoo! Connected TV, provides an update on the rollout of the Yahoo! Connected TV offering. Click here to view.

Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

The 100+ MPG Fleet Truck

Improving the efficiency of their fleet is one painless way for operators to reduce operational expenses in these uncertain times. Although the utility vehicles featured in Jay Leno’s video have greater upfront costs, the promised operational cost savings could pay for the Via Motor’s trucks over time. Built with a standard chassis and body from GM, these hybrid-electric trucks look no different from a regular vehicle, but they provide a robust generator capability at the work site and a promised 100+ mpg.

Via Motor’s website promises life-cycle savings due to lower maintenance and fuel costs. In rural areas, where there is lots of “windshield time” it will be interesting to see if the efficiency gains will be as great as what Via Motor’s touts. Given the small amount of fuel these vehicles use, it would be interesting to see if a compressed natural gas-powered version of this vehicle will be developed.

These vehicles could offer an interesting fleet alternative for telecom operators. As hinted at in this video, fleet sales are the initial focus of Via Motors. With automobile legend Bob Lutz leading Via, this Orem, Utah based upstart car-maker has a credible chance at changing the fleet vehicle market. Click to view the video.